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In the introduction to a review article entitled “Interpreting the protein language using proteomics” the author uses the term ‘cognate genes’ in a manner which I do not understand:

Whereas cognate genes encode the basic biological functions of proteins, the real-time dynamics and regulation of protein structure and function are generally carried out by specific post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins such as phosphorylation, glycosylation and acylation.

What does it mean?

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you provide a reference. The word "cognate" implies relatedness, so that "cognate gene" on its own is meaningless. It has to be cognate to something else. Unless the preceeding sentence inidicates this, I suspect you have a poor text using terms that you should certainly not use yourself. I personally have never heard cognate used in this way and it would seem to me to be incorrect. $\endgroup$ – David Jan 26 '17 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the reason you ignored my request is that you are on a different time zone. An internet search found the article you (mis)quote. I have rewritten your question citing this article, which is what you should have done in the first place if you wanted people to help you. My brief opinion is the author (not a native English speaker) is misusing the word for effect. I will compose a detailed answer when I have time. $\endgroup$ – David Jan 26 '17 at 20:38
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The sentence quoted accidentally misuses the word ‘cognate’ because in attempting to appear profound it has become overweight and off-balance. Notice the sentence also contains the meaningless nonsense of “real-time dynamics”, and in the rest of the paper the word ‘cognate’ is (fortunately) nowhere to be found.

What does the author mean? His review is on proteomics, and he wishes to emphasize the importance of post-translation modification of proteins. He needs to refer to the unmodified form of proteins, and so he associates them with the information in their genes, which is limited to the unmodified amino acids. The word ‘cognate’ in plain English has the meaning of ‘related’ or ‘corresponding’, so the author would appear to be using it to imply the relationship between particular genes and the individual proteins that they encode. What he may have meant to say is:

“Whereas genes encode the basic biological functions of their cognate proteins…”

This would have been linguistically correct, although the word ‘cognate’, in my opinion is unnecessary as it adds nothing to the sentence.

You can find a biological definition of cognate on GenScript:

cognate

A term borrowed from linguistics, signifying a correspondence; e.g. a receptor and its cognate ligand, a tRNA and its cognate amino acid.

These two examples are of the most common uses of ‘cognate’ in molecular biology — that for tRNA can be found on the Wikipedia page for aminoacyl tRNA synthetase. A quick search brought up few examples of ‘cognate proteins’ or ‘cognate genes’, and in these cases I found the word was used to refer to similar genes or proteins in different organisms or strains.

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I think it may be referring to constitutive expression of those "cognate genes". So, cognate genes are those who codify for essential proteins which are constantly produced in the cell, and their function is regulated by said PTMs (Post Translational Modifications). Sorry if I had grammar mistakes in this text.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • $\begingroup$ Please add some references to your answer. $\endgroup$ – another 'Homo sapien' Jan 26 '17 at 13:38
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yeah this is confusing - the writer just means 'the primary structure of proteins' probably. the primary structure directs the 'job' of the protein, but the small modifications to the protein, such as those PTMs s/he mentions, are responsible for directing the protein to/from its 'workplace' and determining its level of activity and its specific shape.

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